Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dinghy disaster

In Clarence Town we decided to go visit Dean's Blue Hole, the deepest blue hole in the world at 663 feet, home of many free diving competitions (and unfortunately also many fatalities). John figured we could dinghy over to it, so we hopped in the dinghy, leaving Dexter behind (I didn't want him falling down the hole did I?!), and were off.

All was going well, it was a pretty calm day, and about 20 mins later we were almost there. The problem was a big reef that we had to get over where waves were crashing hard over. We had to build speed and then shut the motor down and pull her up in order to make it over the shallow reef without hitting the bottom. So we sped up, shut the engine down and got it up, but were at a bad angle, and a huge crashing wave came over us, smacking us broad sided, flipping the dinghy, with us in it over onto the reef.

It really happened so fast I'm not really sure what happened. I remember my feet hitting the reef, getting myself out from under the dinghy and pushing up to the surface, seeing the dinghy with all our stuff (and we had a lot of stuff!) floating (mostly floating...) and seeing that John was ok. We piled all the stuff that we could on top of the flipped over dinghy. I took the tow rope and swam it to shore while John looked for any stuff that had sunk.

That has got to have been the longest swim of my life. We were really quite far from shore, and the water was too deep for me to touch until we were about 10 ft to land. This reference might be lost on some of you, but I felt like Flounder in The Little Mermaid when he had to tow Ariel after she'd gotten her legs and couldn't swim, he had his tow rope around his waist, which I thought would really help me swim faster with the use of both hands, but also thought that if the dinghy goes down, so do I, and decided against it. 

We finally made it to shore, flipped the dinghy back over and dragged it up onto the beach. We checked each other over, making sure there were no major injuries, and we were lucky to just come away with some scratches and bruises. We opened the engine, trying to dry it out, hoping it wasn't done for after being submerged in salt water for so long. Thank god for dry bags! I had my camera and both our iPhones in there, and miraculously they all came out unscathed! Unfortunately Johns iPad was in its own mini dry bag thing as we were using it for navigation, and it has not recovered so well. Also, our sunglasses will make for some nice treasure for some lucky diver.

Since we're troupers, and didn't go through all that for nothing, we walked over to the blue hole and swam through it. It is pretty neat, and I probably would have been more freaked out over the intense drop into the abyss that I was swimming over if I wasn't still so shocked about our recent debacle. But it was really neat, and I would've liked to have climbed up the cliff and jumped off into it, but I was so exhausted, I don't think I would have had the strength to swim back up out of the hole.

We walked back to the dinghy (which never seemed so far, my legs felt like they were made of lead), got the dinghy back in the water, I treaded water to keep it pointed into the waves while John tried to get the engine to start. No luck. We tried calling for help on the VHF but we were too far from anyone, and the phone was dead. We dragged the dinghy back onto shore, and up as high as we could to get it out of the way of the rising tide, anchored it and took what we could with us and walked.

We walked for what seemed like ages, on the sandy road with no sign of anyone. It also happened to be a crazy hot day, without a cloud in sight, my skin felt like it was on fire, oh and we also had ran out of water long ago. I have never felt so thirsty, I was knocking on people's door to ask for water but no one answered. We walked up a very steep hill, I think the only thing that got me up there was because I was so distracted and fascinated by all the crabs rustling in the bushes (apparently it's their mating season). I was having a real Castaway moment and right when I thought that we were totally screwed and would have to walk the whole hr and a half back, a guy on a motor bike stopped, and called his wife who came and brought us water. I kid you not, the most expensive poached lobster would not have tasted as good as this water. We were so grateful!

Up on the hill we were able to get reception with the VHF and contacted our friends on the boat Pendana that we had met the other day. We were so lucky that we were able to get ahold of them, and that they had a car, and they came to our rescue, and drove us back. Wow that air conditioned car felt good.

We thought our engine was toast, but got ahold of a magician named Francis who took us back to our dinghy that we had left on the beach, and worked his magic and the engine was amazingly up and running again. We tentatively went back out over the reef, I was so nervous, but we made it through safely and made it back to our boat, which had never looked so beautiful, and I had never felt so tired.

All in all, we survived yet another adventure, and came out of it pretty lucky, it could've been worse, we could've flipped over the blue hole!. Needless to say I no longer felt guilty for leaving Dexter on the boat, he was definitely better off! And next time, I think we'll rent a car!
All our stuff drying out on the beach
Not a happy camper
See those crashing waves? Thats where we flipped and where I had to swim the dinghy back from-not close
Dean's blue hole

The drop off-I was tempted to bring my water wings!

fixin' her up


  1. How brave you are!!! I think this is the scariest adventure yet...eek!

  2. That is a crazy story. And some amazing photos to go along with it!

  3. The most original visit to the Blue Hole ever! Good to have met you despite the circumstances! April

  4. Ya, hindsight 20/20... you wouldn't be the first ones to flip your dinghy and lose a computer. You will be so good at this you shouldn't stop.